Spain, Holland clash a perfect final
I'm feeling a bit pleased as we head into the World Cup final because more than a month ago, in my first column I named Spain and Netherlands as among the favourites for the event.
My reasoning then was that Spain was very much the team of the moment. They were European champions and in very good form coming to the world cup. Netherlands have always been a good team, a tough team, but at the same time they are thought of as the underachievers. Despite always turning out a squad of very good players, they failed to form as a team.
As the tournament went on, I questioned the performance of all-time favourites Brazil and Argentina. Those two Latin American giants, I believe, needed a coach named "Maradunga". A man with the mixture of the passion of the Maradona style of coaching and the discipline of the Dunga method.
Those teams were sent home ruthlessly and we will now have a new world champion. If Spain win tomorrow, though, the only unbeaten team in the 2010 World Cup will be New Zealand, who had three draws from their group matches.
More seriously, though, I have to say that Spain and Netherlands deserve to be in the final.
Against Germany, Spain played a high quality game that no other team in this World Cup could have produced. Their style of play reminded me of the Brazil's golden generation in 1982 with Zico, Socrates, Falcao. Yet we must also remember that in six matches, Spain have only conceded only two goals compared to Holland's 5, which tells you just how strong their defence is.
Possession is Spain's main strength. It is their advantage for attacking the opponent and creating chances. But it is also their main weapon when defending because of their ability to keep the ball away from opponent and limit their chances. Holland's strengths rest on their two defensive midfielders, Nigel De Jong and Marc Van Bommel and the creativity of Arjen Robben and Wesley Snijder and their ability to score goals.
After Spain's semi-final, the Oranje must now think carefully and plan their strategy on how to stop the Spaniards' tactic of possession and passing. It is Spain's speciality and they manage a great amount of possession by keeping their midfielders close and tight to each other and central in the field. Both side backs then are used to keep the width of intact which creates space for the midfielders to work in.
There are two ways of stop Spain from doing what they do best. The first is to go with the Swiss method. The Swiss defended in numbers in their own half and tried not to worry too much about what was happening in the Spanish half. This allowed then to slow down the width of the backs (Ramos and Capdevila) and not give space for their central midfield (Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta) too.
I'm not sure that this will suit the high standart of Holland given the quality they have and the fact that this is a World Cup final. What I think is more likely convinient to the Dutch team is to play their traditional system, the classic 4-3-3 formation which is what most Dutch clubs still use. The keys to this system is Holland's 3 forwards (1 central and 2 flanked). They make Spain's back four stay in a deeper position and not allow Ramos and Capdevila to move up forward like they normally do. It cuts down on Spain's width and thereby also forces their midfielders Pedro and Iniesta to go wide, which will disturbs their usual short passing game.
This way will suit Holland better and I'm sure make for a very exciting and attacking match. I am hoping that the Dutch don't try to close down too much just to see us get a bit more from a world cup final rather than a 1-0. If the Dutch team play a more attacking football, then we will see a cracker of a game with 2 or 3 goals. Spain anyway will come to the final wanting to play with flair and creativity. I'm quite sure the result will be decided in the 90 minutes.